Lawsuits filed at last minute on anniversary of rig blowout

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wwltv.com

Posted on April 20, 2011 at 5:38 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 20 at 9:54 PM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News

The first anniversary of the Gulf oil spill was also a crucial deadline in the federal litigation which followed the Deepwater Horizon explosion.  

It was the last day to file a maritime claim against the rig's owner Transocean.

New Orleans attorney Walter Leger spent the day filing the last of his clients' claims against Transocean, BP and other potential defendants tied to the spill.

Leger represents some of the coastal parishes and towns affected by the disaster.

Most are suing to recoup the cost of keeping the oil off their beaches and out of the marshes and for other damages.
    
"Including government damages for lost revenues, loss of tax revenue or even from physical damage to property that's owned by the parish as a result of the spill itself," said Leger.

Leger says BP and others also need to compensate communities for potential future damages.

"If the environmental impact turns out over the long term to be as great as we fear, it could be incredibly significant," said Leger. "We just don't know. Time will tell."

So far, there are more than 60,000 BP claims pending at the federal courthouse in New Orleans.

Attorney Joseph Bruno says many of the suits will ultimately be litigated under the oil pollution act approved by Congress after the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.

"With regard to a claim under the Oil Pollution Act, you merely have to claim that you sustained a loss of profit or loss of income as a result of the loss of natural resources," said Bruno.

One of Bruno's clients, Lana Stockstill, says her Plaquemines Parish marina lost close to 40 percent of its income after the BP spill.

"We cater to the oyster industry and the fishing industry and we lost the bulk of our fuel sales and some of our rentals and our bar and marine sales," said Stockstill.

Stockstill says BP has already compensated her for some of her lost business.

But, like the parishes, she is also worried about future damages.
     
"I don't control when oyster fishermen will be able to go back to work at full capacity and how that's going to effect our business in the future," said Stockstill.

The first real test in the oil spill litigation will come in February.        

That's when U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier will meet with attorneys in the case and decide the percentage of fault for BP and the other defendants named in the lawsuits.
 

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